NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–City-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will pay Oregon $4 million to resolve deceptive marketing claims over recalled metal-on-metal hip implants, according to published reports.
In the agreement announced last Wednesday, the settlement will only be a fraction of the $2.47 billion that J&J already said it would pay last year to resolve about 8,000 U.S. suits against its DePuy unit, the maker of the implants.
Those payments will go to patients who have had artificial hips removed due to pain and the need for follow-up surgeries known as revisions.
However, the settlement with Oregon may pave the way for additional accomodations since federal and multi-state probes investigating J&J’s sales of the device are currently taking place.
The Oregon settlement marks J&J’s first deal with any governmental agency involving the devices.
"Oregonians in need of a hip replacement deserve to know that the artificial hip they are contemplating in fact has the qualities, and benefits, that a company advertises," said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
"Doctors also need to know that the products they suggest to their patients meet certain standards."
In a recent regulatory filing J&J disclosed that the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts are “probing whether the company made false claims or false statements about the devices to federal health care programs,” according to Bloomberg News.
The filing also states that J&J is fully cooperating with the government’s civil investigation and has turned over documents in response to informal U.S. requests for information related to the hip device.
By paying the state of Oregon, the company resolves claims that it was in violation of the states unfair business practices law.
It told patients and doctors that its hips functioned properly when evidence showed they were actually failing at a high rate.
“If other government entities obtained similar payments from DePuy based on the number of devices sold, it would be a very large number and significant deterrent,” Oregon's Assistant Attorney General, David Hart told Bloomberg News.
“DePuy didn’t admit wrongdoing under the agreement, Mindy Tinsley, a DePuy spokeswoman, said in an e-mail, declining to comment on the probes,” wrote Bloomberg News.
Nine years ago, when the metal-on-metal implants were first sold in the U.S., J&J promoted them as a new design that would last 20 years and offer greater range of motion. However, almost two years ago J&J recalled 93,000 of the ASR hip implants across the globe.
Internal research by Johnson & Johnson showed that 12 percent failed within five years.
J&J's hip replacement devices are not the only brand of artificial hips facing recalls and subsequent accusations in court.
In an unrelated lawsuit filed in Jackson County, Oregon last week, a man who had a Stryker brand hip-replacement device implanted in 2011 claims his doctors discovered that the device was causing large toxic metal ions and particles to be released into his bloodstream. He is suing Stryker Orthopedics for $5.1 million.
The man suffered ongoing pain, swelling, and discomfort from the metal corrosion and had the device removed at the end of last year.
The Stryker brand device was recalled in July 2012, but was implanted in 53,000 people while on the market for nearly four years.
"It's not that the device itself doesn't replace the original hip — it does, but they are harming people," Dennis Black, of Black Chapman Webber & Stevens, a Medford, Oregon law firm representing the man told the Mail Tribune.
"They're basically releasing heavy metals into people's systems."